Imagine autumn having a hot, love affair with bourbon. A little spicy, a little tart, wafting the aromas of the season.

I’ve been on the bourbon bandwagon for awhile. During the summer, I was mixing it with herb-scented syrup and berries. With the changing leaves and crisp, cooler air, it was time to give my favorite cocktail a seasonal makeover.

A group of people I work with recently gathered for a pig roast. Due to my homemade cocktail-centric client gifts last year, I have earned myself a reputation amongst this crew as an amateur mixologist. For the recent gathering, I was assigned to bring cocktails and I wanted to live up to expectations. So, I schemed up this spiced cider bourbon cocktail for the occasion.

A few years ago, I ordered a speciality cocktail at a neighborhood restaurant that I’ve always fondly remembered for tasting like the essence of autumn. I complimented the bartender and asked him how he made it. Thought I don’t remember all the ingredients, I recall him saying that he added Chinese 5 spice powder to an apple cider reduction. Chinese 5 spice powder is a lot like pumpkin spice but a bit more “spicy’ with the addition of black pepper. The ingredients listing on my bottle reads, “cinnamon, anise, fennel, black pepper and cloves.”

I reduced the apple cider and added the spice along with some maple syrup for added flavor. I always like some citrus to balance the drink adding a touch of sour to the sweet.  I played with the ratios of ingredients and found a perfect balance for my palate. Feel free to add more syrup or stiffen up the cocktail with extra bourbon if you like. Happy Autumn sipping!

Spiced Cider Bourbon Cocktail
Makes 1 cocktail
2 ounces bourbon
2 ounces Spiced Cider Syrup (recipe below)
Fresh lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon (about 1/2 ounce)
Garnish with lemon twist and one star anise (optional)

Put the spiced cider syrup, bourbon and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for a minute. Serve  straight or over ice. Garnish with piece of lemon peel and if you have it, a star anise.

Spiced Cider Syrup
4 cups apple cider
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1/4 cup maple syrup

Put the cider and spice powder in a medium sauce pan and heat over medium heat. Bring to simmer and cook for about 20 minutes until reduced by almost half. Stir in the maple syrup until dissolved. Set aside and let cool.